Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham: Crazy Weather for a Maine Traverse
Saturday I went out with a few friends to conquer three of the fourteen Maine 4,000 footers. It was a very weird day weather wise and a long hike, but it was a really great introduction to hiking in Maine! I’ve been really excited about starting the ME 4,000 footers, but at the same time I’ve been dreading it a bit as well. The drives are super long (between four and seven hours), so I’ve been dragging my feet a little bit, but I’m so glad I got up there this weekend for a great hike!
The day started off super early with a long drive up to Carrabasset Valley. I stopped for breakfast on the way and got a donut at The Holey Donut in Scarborough. I usually don’t like doughnuts at all, but these were amazing! It was 9:30 when I got to the Rapid Stream trailhead in Kingfield. Rapid Stream road is a very rough dirt road that disappears on google maps after just a few miles. I found myself a little bit lost because I didn’t know where to go after google maps turned off. I used the Gaia GPS app to help me find the trailhead, so that made things a bit easier. Pro tip: keep driving like a mile past the two bridges for the easiest trail access!
When I met up with my friends, we left my car and drove about 45 minutes to Caribou Valley trailhead to start the hike. This was another long dirt road, but much smoother. The trail up to Sugarloaf started off pretty tame but got steep quickly. There was one tricky crossing, but luckily we all stayed dry and kept on our way. Todd and Rhonda were cruising and I was huffing and puffing to keep up with them. Midway up to the summit we started to see some great views. There were some spots that were pretty steep and scrambly, but fun to try to maneuver. On our way up the thunderstorms and hail started, but we were hoping the storm would blow over quickly.
When we broke tree line the clouds parted and we could see the radio tower on the top of Sugarloaf Mountain that was blown over this past February by winds that reached over 100mph. It was kind of eerie to see the mangled structure, reminding me of the extreme powers that mother nature holds. The wind was pretty high at the summit and we could see the bad weather blowing in again, so we ducked behind the radio tower to have some snacks before continuing on to Spaulding Mountain. We could see it in the distance with Mt. Abraham behind it. They seemed so far away, so we kept on moving at our quick and steady pace.
The traverse over to Spaulding Mtn. was gradual and the footing was good. This stretch of trail was really smooth, making for a quick hike to our second peak of the day. I was pleasantly surprised that it was such an easy stretch of trail without any difficult rocky sections, and when we made it to the summit we didn’t stay long. This one was wooded with just small cleared outlook a little ways past the summit sign. On the walk over to the viewpoint, Todd unknowingly stepped on a tiny garter snake. I shrieked when I saw it slither away because it was so beautifully disguised as a root on the path. Don’t worry it was totally fine I checked!
One confusing part about Spaulding is that the summit sign listed it at 3,988 ft not 4,010 as it’s reported in the Maine Mountain Guide. I double checked and it is indeed considered a 4,000 footer, so I’m not completely sure why the sign says that it’s lower. We continued on the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Abraham, our final peak of the day. This stretch of path was again pretty gradual and easy, but the thunderstorms were back paired with pea sized hail showering down on us. It was pretty crazy to see the weather change so quickly, and by the time we broke treeline on Mt. Abraham it was sunny again.
At this point the wind was picking up, making it more difficult to navigate the rocky trail. This part kind of reminded me of the terrain in the northern presidentials. They were medium sized granite boulders that threatened to roll our ankles if we weren’t careful. This was mixed with loose scree that made staying balanced a difficult feat. When we made it to the summit the wind was so strong it was blowing me over at times. I was stumbling about trying to take in the gorgeous views without tumbling down the rocky mountainside. We could see all of the way over to Sugarloaf where we had been just a few hours before.
The views were sweeping and gorgeous. It was crazy to see the thundershowers in the distance, and we could see them blowing towards us so after a short break we decided to make our way back down to the sheltered path. The footing on the rocky terrain was difficult on the knees, but luckily we made good time. Almost as soon as we got below treeline it started hailing again. Thunderstorms above treeline can be very dangerous, but Todd joked about how since he was hit by lightning once the odds of it happening again were extremely low. That didn’t apply to me though!
The trek back to the car felt longer than three miles because of the mud pits covering the trail throughout. This was to be expected after the on and off showers throughout the day, but it was still annoying to have to slog through it all the way back to the car. The first mile or so didn't have too much mud, but the roots and fallen pine needles on the ground made it very slippery. The hard part was that it didn't look slippery so it was sneaky in that I would take a confident step, slip on a slick root, and be on my ass unexpectedly. I guess I should anticipate falling all the time though because I'm so clumsy!
After two miles we crossed a dirt road and weren’t sure where to go next. We had parked part of the way down snowmobile trails, so we weren’t sure if we should continue on the hiking trail to the car or if we should walk along the road back to the car. We ultimately ended up following the hiking trail and coming out right at the cars which was a relief. There was one tricky crossing close to the end of the trail, and it definitely took some strategizing to get across with dry feet.
Although it was a really long day with the driving and traverse, this hike was a great challenge with some even better views. I felt really productive tackling three 4,000 footers in just one hike, so it made the long drive worth it. This hike brought me to 54 out of 67 New England 4,000 footers, so it was a great feeling to be one step closer to my summer goal! Hopefully next time I’ll be able to stay in Maine for a whole weekend so that I can hike many more peaks and make the long drive worth it. I think a camping trip may be in order! It was fun day with some great hiking buddies to knock a few more of the NE67 off of my list.
Sugarloaf Mtn, Spaulding Mtn, and Mt. Abraham via. the Appalachain Trail, Abraham Slide Tr, and Fire Warden's Tr [13.8 mi, 4220 ft, 7:45].
Check out my Instagram @lexi.brocoum for more pictures!